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Thoughts on Homelessness in Northern Ireland

12 December 2016

Lord Mayor Launches Simon Communitys Plan To Tackle Homelessness Copy 217X300

We have a huge problem of homelessness in Northern Ireland. Statistics released recently prove this. In the past 12 months, 18,628 people presented as homeless to the Northern Ireland Housing Executive, 53 of which died in the same period. That’s approximately one homeless death per week, and that only accounts for people who are statutorily homeless – there is a huge ‘hidden homelessness’ gap in statistics, meaning that we can’t yet know the true extent of homelessness and people dying while homeless in Northern Ireland.

In addition, Simon Community took nearly 27,000 calls from people across NI who became homeless or were on the cusp of it. That’s 3 calls per hour, every hour for a year. Of the households presenting as homeless, 43% are single people with no children. This means the likelihood of them receiving support with housing is extremely low, and therefore they face a life spent sofa surfing, relying on friends and staying in hostels unless we can secure the right support and housing availability to accommodate them. 27% are small families, meaning that there are at least 4,000 children in Northern Ireland who are living in unsuitable, unstable housing this Christmas.

There are many reasons why people become homeless. The stereotype of homelessness is the bearded man sleeping rough on the streets. That is not the reality. Most of the time you will not see people who are homeless because they are staying in emergency accommodation, with friends or family, in bed and breakfasts or even sleeping in their car. But we at Simon Community NI do see those who become homeless. We see more and more people from all walks of life asking for our help and depending on our services. They become homeless because of family breakdown and martial dispute; issues with addiction; ill mental health; rising costs of housing; bereavement; debt; bad decisions made at the wrong time; and a shortage of affordable housing.

The effects can be devastating. We know that homeless people have a much lower life expectancy than those in secure and stable accommodation due to poor health. They also have fewer educational and employment opportunities and suffer from stigmatisation and social exclusion. Over 80% of people experiencing homelessness suffer from mental ill health.

Now is the time when we must commit to ending homelessness in Northern Ireland. And we can end it. We can end it by each of us playing our part – whether that’s volunteering, donating what we can, lobbying our elected representatives and educating ourselves as to where we can help. We can end homelessness by not ignoring it.

Simon Community NI has a vision of a society where homelessness is ended. If you would like to be a part of achieving that vision, please get in touch. We have both career and volunteer opportunities where you can make a real difference.

Together we can end homelessness. Are you up for the challenge?

Click here for opportunities to get involved with Simon Community NI and help end homelessness.